Changing Your Diet Could Help With Anxiety

In England about 4.7 in 100 people suffer from anxiety, 2.6 from depression and 9.7 from depression combined with anxiety. That’s shit loads of people. Overall, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year and I am a one in four because I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder.

What you may not realise is that diet can make symptoms worse..

Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by our diet but it can definitely make the symptoms worse. When it comes to anxiety eating healthily really does make a difference.

Before I got carted off to A&E with my epic (I’M DYING) panic attack, I’d noticed that I was getting palpitations after eating my daily Kit-Kat (four-fingers) and a pint of real ale would have me waking up at 2am with a 10/10 scale panic attack. The night I was taken to hospital, I’d downed a take-away and a pint of 7% beer. Not excessive by any means but a) I’m a lightweight and b) I was on the brink of nervous exhaustion due to the amount of adrenalin that had been surging through my body over the previous two years. There is NO doubt that it triggered the panic attack.

It makes sense to avoid foods which could be making your anxiety worse.

Such as:

Alcohol

Relaxes you initially but you wake up at 3am with a gob like a flip-flop because you are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger a panic attack. Alcohol also mucks about with the serotonin levels in your brain which makes things worse once the alcohol has worn off.

Caffeine

It’s a stimulant so it makes your heart beat faster and can give you palpitations. It’s a known anxiety stimulant. Remember Tweak in South Park? One cup a day preferably in the morning is OK for most people but anything more than that is a panic attack waiting to happen. I’m an all or nothing type of girl so I’ve given it up completely and I have to say that some of the decafs on the market aren’t too bad at all!

Fried Foods

I noticed that I felt iffy after trawling my way through a full English and now I understand it’s because the digestive system has to work it’s arse off to digest it all. OOPS!

Sugar

AVOID! AVOID! AVOID!

Naturally occurring sugars are fine but the nasty white refined stuff will have you hyperventilating into a paper bag before you can say ‘One lump or two?’

Dairy Products

Dairy isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things but when it comes to anxiety it can raise your adrenalin levels so if you’re already ‘buzzed off your baps’ it’s not rocket science to understand how eating a lot of dairy can contribute to your anxious state. I’ve ditched the cheese but can recommend the vegan cheese-less cheese slices which are relatively palatable with some imagination.

Acid Forming Foods

Acid forming foods play havoc with your magnesium levels. Many people are deficient in this mineral due to food processing. Low magnesium levels can also contribute to anxiety and many people say that taking a magnesium supplement greatly improves their symptoms. Some even say that it makes them disappear completely but low magnesium levels can cause the same symptoms anxiety.

That’s the depressing part but it’s worth looking at what you are ingesting to feel less anxious. As Del Boy says, ‘You know it makes sense, Rodney!’

So what can you eat and drink to make you feel a bit calmer?

Herbal Teas

Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Valerian are all calming drinks. Be careful with Green Tea though.. It has numerous health benefits but it’s also a stimulant, so make sure you drink it decaffeinated.

Fresh Fruit

Fruit will give you the energy you need without the buzz that sugar gives you. Bananas are also a good source of magnesium.

Vegetables

They make you fart but farting ‘trumps’ a panic attack any-day of the week. See what I did there?

Tryptophan

Foods such as poultry, oats, dates, fish, peanuts, sunflower seeds, soy and chickpeas are rich in Tryptophan which is known to reduce anxiety.

Water

Most of us are dehydrated and dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety symptoms so increasing how much you drink will improve things. I’ve found that knocking back a glass of Lancashire tap settles my palpitations down a treat.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Evidence suggests that Omega 3 is important for anxiety so Flaxseed oil, fish like salmon and tuna are good for you. Your house will stink like Grimsby Docks but your body will adore you for it. I also take a supplement and as well as the improvement in my anxiety, I’ve noticed that my brain doesn’t feel as ‘foggy’.

Supplements

Magnesium

Magnesium is a calming mineral. It supports the nervous system and helps to prevent anxiety. In my opinion it definitely helps so I take a daily supplement to make sure I’m getting enough.

B Vitamins

B12 is the most common, but all B vitamins may have an effect on anxiety. B-vitamins play a strong role in the nervous system, so studies indicate that supplementing B vitamins could also improve anxiety outlook.

A word of caution about B Vitamins

I was taking a B vitamin complex until I realised that it was increasing my anxiety and I learned that Vitamin B6 is used in most energy supplements because it can increase the production of various energizing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It’s better to take it in the morning and with food.

The general function of norepinephrine is to mobilize the brain and body for action

When you are in a state of anxiety, your body is permanently ready for action so pumping more of this stuff into your body is going to increase anxiety levels. However, everybody is different in how things affect their body so the best idea is to see how it affects you and adjust the strength accordingly or leave them off altogether until you’re body isn’t constantly flooded with adrenalin and cortisol.

Cutting out the crap and eating more healthily will not cure your anxiety but I can assure you that it will improve how you feel. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc are all known to worsen anxiety and trigger panic attacks so removing those from your diet means less triggers to deal with. Less triggers means less adrenalin and cortisol. Try it. You may feel worse to begin with as withdrawal from any addictive substance makes you feel like you’re coming off crack (not that I know) but after a while you should notice an improvement. You will also notice that your skin is clearer and you don’t have ‘brain fog’.

I know how comforting food can be. My heart has soared many a time over the glorious sight of a Yorkie bar hiding at the back of the cupboard but I’ve also learned that those few minutes eating sugar-laden goodies isn’t worth the ambulance ride at 5am in the morning. If you want to get better, I strongly suggest you cut out the stimulants. This is not to say that you can never enjoy these things again. Once your body recovers and is no longer releasing stress hormones 24/7, you will be able to snaffle the odd doughnut and cappuccino again without it being a problem.

Until then, do the right thing by your bod, eh?

 

 

 

 

Bend It Like Barbara.

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“So, we have the results of your Dexa scan and ooh, you have Osteopenia”

I thought, ‘WHAT THE SHITTING HELL?!’

I said, “Oh!”

My GP went on to reassure me that it’s quite normal for post-menopausal women like me..

Rewind a few weeks to a conversation with a GP where I mentioned that I was creaking and cracking like an old barn door. This conversation concluded in me being sent for a Dexa scan to measure the density of my bones. The result being that I have Osteopenia.

What’s Osteopenia?

Osteopenia is the technical name for thinning bones and it’s the stage before Osteoporosis. Not to be confused with the film Quadrophenia, as can sometimes happen with the menopausal brain, eh ladies?

Brrrring on the mobilty scooter!

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Ok, it’s a bit shit. I’m only 46. However, there are far worse things in life to deal with AND the condition can be slowed down by exercise and taking calcium supplements – only one of the complications they don’t tell you about with Osteopenia is that you run the risk of choking to death on a calcium tablet because they are the size of Wales!

So I went to see a dietician who advised me to start doing weight bearing exercise like yoga to protect my bones. I already do the school run and walk the dog most days so walking isn’t a problem. I bought a yoga DVD (for the over 50s) and a mat.

The yoga DVD is aimed at menopausal ladies like moiself and has routines targeting Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and strength building in general to support knackered bones. There is even a routine called ‘Gentle Yoga on a Chair’. So you can basically work out while sitting on your arse!

WIN and WIN!

The DVD itself is relaxing to watch. It’s set outside on a lush green lawn with the Glacier National Park in the background and a beautiful water feature. Of course, you have the sound of running water all the way through which makes having a pre-workout wee ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL, unless you want to test your pelvic floor?

So the location is beautiful and instructor Barbara Benagh’s voice is calming. She’s also bendy as fook but she’s a yoga instructor so she’s meant to be. I mean, she’s bend down – straight legged – hands flat on the floor – bendy whereas I can only reach my knees but I can only improve from here, right?

When it comes to workout gear I opted for old leggings and my Breakfast Club tee shirt. I have some bingo-wing-age going on with my arms so much so that waving has become a health hazard so vest tops are out for the time being.

I did a few workouts in the living room then one day I decided to work out in the sun-room, sounds posh doesn’t it?

It’s not.

The sun-room (which overlooks the yard) is a small space but I can just about stretch my arms out without doing myself an injury. So, I’d set myself up and shoved the dog outside so I wouldn’t be disturbed..

I’d just got into the pose where you balance on one leg with arms outstretched (forget the technical term) when I caught sight of the lurcher in squatting position in the yard. Now, you have to hold the pose for a minute (closing eyes NOT an option if you want to stay upright) so I saw the entire performance of her dropping her load then doing the ski run across the hard flagstones to deal with her ‘cling on’s’.

OM. MY. GOD.

See what I did there?

Pretty much sums me up. Barbara gets tranquil sunlit mountain backdrop to work out to. I get the lurcher having a shit!

The problems with doing yoga at home are distractions of daily life (such as dogs ‘avin a poo) and the motivation that is required to do it regularly. The best way for most people would be to find a group and I have done this in the past but any benefit I got from the yoga was lost due to the stress of being in a group. I don’t do groups, you see. I prefer to go lone wolf and fortunately for me I can motivate myself well enough especially when I have a goal and my goal is to slow down the bone thinning process.

Bone thinning is a natural part of the menopause but many women are unaware of it until they have a Dexa scan or break a bone. There is much that can be done to prevent this condition and having Osteopenia doesn’t mean you will go onto have Osteoporosis. Every post-menopausal woman will have some thinning of the bones. Taking Calcium supplements and doing weight bearing exercise will help to protect your bones. If you are post menopausal, you REALLY need to start addressing it now. My GP told me that all post menopausal women should be taking a calcium supplement as we need around 1200 mgs a day along with Vit D3 which helps with absorption.

One thing about calcium supplements is that GPs prescribe them in carbonate form basically because it’s the cheapest. A lot of people (me included) have issues with constipation when taking it in that form so citrate is the better option.

Don’t take supplements without discussing it with your GP, especially if you take medication as some supplements can interact with certain drugs.

Finally, the BEST thing for bone health is sunshine. Lack of sunlight causes Vitamin D deficiency which affects the bones and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Menopausal women generally need 800-1,000 IU daily and you can get that through a mixture of sunlight, diet and supplements. Get your calcium and Vit D levels checked about every six months via a blood test and you’ll know if you’ve got the balance right.

The effort you put in now will pay off in years to come keeping you active for longer and off that mobility scooter!

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